NC3 National Signing Day: Pinellas Tech Celebration

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National Signing Day honors students who are choosing to commit to technical education. The event aims to bring dignity to the work these students are choosing to do and is the first step towards not only helping students pinpoint their hopes and dreams, but also helping students MAKE THEM A REALITY.

Each year, our NC3 Leadership Schools celebrate NC3 National Signing Day in their own fantastic way. This year, Pinellas Technical College in St. Petersburg, Florida had a particularly unique celebration…. 

Keith Whiteley, Automotive Instructor at Pinellas Technical College, celebrated his 4th National Signing Day, but his 1st with his son, Jacob, as a participant!

Jacob Whiteley signed his letter of intent to commit to the Automotive program at Pinellas Technical College and is excited to become a third-generation mechanic. 

Keith’s father also worked in the automotive industry (Jacob’s grandfather), but Keith’s own journey began when he acquired a General Motors certification through the ASEP program at a community college in upstate New York.

During the two decades he’s spent training automotive mechanics, both in industry and in education, Keith says every person he’s taught who had a baseline education excelled. “Everyone who learned in their own backyard consistently struggled to understand how everything worked,” he commented. 

Taking that into consideration, Keith heavily emphasizes the importance that curriculum, certifications and structure play in technical education. “The more certifications my students stack up, the more valuable those students are,” Keith says.

Why is committing to technical education important to students?

In the past, Keith has taught students who were living in their cars just to get by, and has been beyond proud to see what those students have been able to accomplish after completing his program. “Not only have they gone on to secure gainful employment, they also now own homes, have health insurance and are living comfortable lifestyles,” he says. Jacob, Keith’s son, wishes more students his age knew about the opportunities available to students who choose to enter the technical fields, highlighting that:

  • There’s a huge need for skilled workers.
  • The trades provide well-paying jobs.
  • Students who choose to enter technical fields have the ability to live good, comfortable lives.

Keith and Jacob both acknowledged that if you’re willing to commit to a trade, stack your certifications and get hands-on experience while going to school — you’ll spend only a fraction of what it costs to attend a 4-year university and, upon graduation, you’ll have employers practically competing with one another to hire you. “The word is out,” Keith says! Students from Pinellas graduate with not only the skills and proficiency they need to join the workforce, they have employers ready and waiting to hire them. The need for skilled workers is rapidly shifting the perception of technical education – in Florida and throughout the nation!

Keith’s son, Jacob, would like to see high schools doing more to further shift the perspective by better promoting technical education. He’s proud that he has been able to open the minds of some of his friends about the opportunities available at Pinellas and other technical colleges around the country.

“There are multiple opportunities in technical education and you aren’t limited by one field,” Jacob says.

Keith has seen what a difference bringing structure and certifications into the classroom makes. During his first two years at Pinellas, he doesn’t recall a single student passing a certification exam while the campus was utilizing more of an ‘open-shop’ style classroom. After putting more structure in place and starting to utilize course curriculum, the tables have turned. His students are now passing certification exams and have a 90+% job placement rate! Class sizes at Pinellas are growing, students have access to the equipment they need to learn, and Keith is proud that his students are leaving his program making money! 

Despite these many victories, Keith still has big plans in the works… He wants all of his students to be NC3 certified and has a long-term goal of his students achieving an 80+% pass rate for certification exams. He also hopes that upon graduation, each of his students will acquire gainful employment as at least a C-level technician. “Teach, refine, repeat,” Keith says. “There’s always room to grow every year!”

Where does NC3 National Signing Day fit into the equation?

Jacob is excited about building his future and says being part of this year’s NC3 National Signing Day made him feel proud that he’s going to a legitimate college. He was particularly excited to see industry representatives from NC3, Snap-on, Inc., and Trane at the event showing their support and was surprised to see a camera crew filming the celebration so his family members could live-stream the festivities from afar.

From an instructor’s perspective, Keith says,

“I love that NC3 National Signing Day adds value to the work schools are doing. I think it’s a great way to showcase the support the students have. When superintendents, big industry partners, local employers, and other educators all make it a point to be part of the event, that’s important,” he adds.

This year, Keith was beaming with pride to see his son up on stage signing his letter of intent, and our team at NC3 was humbled to have been part of the experience. 

Thank you, Keith, for everything you’ve done and continue to do to pave the way forward for students in technical education! We are incredibly proud to have great instructors like you in our network. We’re looking forward to celebrating NC3 National Signing Day with you again next year and seeing the quality of your program at Pinellas continue to grow.

Do you have any special stories to share from NC3 National Signing Day? We’d love to hear them! Please send articles and photos to Hannah Peltier for a chance to be featured in upcoming NC3 newsletters, blogs and more!

Stay tuned for more exciting NC3 National Signing Day stories throughout the year and in the meantime, relive some of the greatest NSD moments of 2020 on our National Signing Day website!

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